2/9/09

Office space

While working at a newspaper has its low points, it certainly has its share of high ones. Among the perks is pretty much total freedom to put whatever we want on the walls around us (at least at my paper; I can't really vouch for others). From what I understand, in most "creative" professions, there's quite a bit of flexibility in cubicle decor.

Examples: We have a "plant lady" at work who has a veritable jungle (I am not even kidding. She has a tree.) in and around her cube. My friend Diana had an impressive collection of toys. One guy has the biggest collection of comic book action figures I have ever seen, and an inflatable alien lives on the Sports desk. And (bless their hearts) many reporters have papers, file folders and dirty coffee mugs strewn about their cubes.

So when I read this article about the strict rules of cube decor at Martha Stewart, I was a little shocked. Employees can't have office supplies beyond the list of "approved" utensils, and the offices are kept...sterile. Not just clean. Sterile. They can't even have coffee mugs. WHICH MEANS LESS COFFEE. WHO WORKS IN JOURNALISM WITHOUT COFFEE?

For one thing, my dream has long been to work for either Vogue or National Geographic or Martha Stewart Living. While I'm sure I would love getting to copy edit stories about living room paint colors, I don't know if I could like very much to do it in a bare, boring cube. You'd also think Martha would encourage some level of decorating creativity, even if it would probably be in her style (Pink granite driveways!).

For another thing, how can people work well if they can't look at the things they enjoy? I have a collection of little notes, pictures, cartoons and calendars that make my days much better. Some of them remind me to keep going when I'd rather just crawl under my desk for a quick nap, and others give me laugh when I need it. And some things are just there...because I put them there and now don't want to take them down.

What really gets me, I think, is the rule on approved writing utensils. I have a black pen (one, single black pen) and the rest are colored. I use a pink or green highlighter (Yellow? Ew.), and red pens remind me of Mr. Watson (Ask any student of Wearwood Elementary, and they will tell you he is/was the worst teacher that ever lived.) and thus make me want to jump off a high building.

The most important thing, I think, about being able to put up whatever we want in our cubes/offices is that those little things remind us that there is life beyond Outlook and InDesign and bloody DT. Most newsroom employees stare at a computer screen for 8+ hours a day, and we don't really have windows from which to see the outside, so all those little things we keep around are basically sanity savers. They are for me, anyway.

On my interview, I noticed a handful of people with fun-looking cubes and offices. And then my boss drew a picture with a purple pen. And I knew I would be OK here.

Oh, and when I'm hugely successful (ha!) and have my own business, I think I'll use Pottery Barn Teen for inspiration. Who doesn't love pink furniture?

3 comments:

Diana said...

Thanks for the shout-out! I used to call my cubicle the Museum of Crap. I collected tons of toys, seashells, figurines and bathtub floaties -- mostly to piss off my ever-lovely co-worker, Jeff Brumley. After I left the TU, I bequeathed most of my treasures to him by dumping them all over his desk. I DID keep the Indiana University water glass I stole from a bar in Bloomington. It's one of my favorite treasures.

Jeff said...

you conveniently failed to mention the porn images you have hanging in your cubie.

Elizabeth said...

For the record, I don't have any porn hanging in my cube. But I bet some people do.